In expressive arts therapy, we are always working in the present. The here and now is the only real medium we have to work with, the only place where thoughts, feelings, and behaviors occur.

This may seem strange, especially if you are dealing with past traumatic or childhood issues. But even if you're talking about "the past," you are doing it in the present.

Our memories and emotions associated with the past should not be confused with the actual events that took place. A dozen people could have been in the same room at the same time but would all tell a slightly different story. The only thing that matters now are the imprints they have left on us--our views and beliefs of that memory, and all that arises from those beliefs, that still affect us now. The imprints of the past, if they weren't with us in the present, they wouldn't be having any influence, and would make no difference anyway. The past is gone. The imprints...the way we carry the past IN THE PRESENT is the only aspect of the past that holds any relevance.

There are those who may say, focusing on the present is a shallow form of therapy; it doesn’t get to the “heart” of the issue. But being fully present in the moment, in full awareness of the emotions and memories / values/ beliefs associated with that moment, wherever they originally came from, being with those feelings, allowing them--not just allowing them but allowing them to move through you, to become transformed into something else, into something beautiful--is some the deepest processing we can do.

Expressive art therapy expands and envelopes all cognitive processes, including ruminating over the past, day-dreaming in the imaginal world, kinesthetically feeling movement, taking in tastes, textures, sights and sounds through our senses, and whatever else may be going on in the present. First you become aware, you experience fully without judgement, and then the transformation begins, the transformation of inner experience into outer expression, the transformation of confusion into insight, of disturbance into joy, of resistance and fear into openness and possibility, and of the artist / client / explorer who is changed and made new.